On the surface, it sounds like an ordinary romance: two people meet, fall in love, get married and want to start a family.
Except the true story that inspired playwright Natalie Meisner’s Speed Dating for Sperm Donors, as well as her first novel, Double Pregnant, is anything but ordinary. Meisner describes her family as “a poster for the 21st century.” Meisner and her wife, Viviën Beerends, are a biracial couple and a two-mom family.
When the couple first decided to start a family, it turned out finding a sperm donor was harder than they anticipated. Meisner and Beerends’ search for Mr. Right began in 2009, when the couple asked a friend to donate, but they ultimately decided against going that route. Instead, they took to the Internet and created profiles on a few websites in the hopes of finding the perfect stranger.
“For the first time in my adult life, I was creeping guys,” laughs Meisner.
The couple’s online profiles got responses from across the world, some of which were sincere, some less so. For two years, Meisner and Beerends searched for a unique donor. They wanted someone who didn’t want to help them parent, yet someone who was open to the child knowing who they were and who would be willing to be part of the children’s lives if the kids desired.
“What we didn’t want was mystery,” says Meinser. “Viv was adopted … and she wished she had some access to her story.” While Beerends did eventually discover her birth parents at 17, Meinser says, “That not knowing about your origins is what she wanted to avoid passing on to our children.”
Among potential suitors, Meisner says, was a friendly gay male couple — “they wanted a kid of their own” — a Romanian quantum physicist — “he wanted to create super kids” — and a hotel owner who was just looking for a hookup.
Luckily, there’s a happy ending. Both Meisner and Beerends got pregnant, thanks to a Vancouver-based donor, and now have two energetic three-year-old boys.
Meisner says she wrote scenes about many of the donors the couple met, while some scenes were inspired by encounters with other potential donors. “I think I managed to plan the whole experience in the one-act show,” she says.
Meisner calls the play “a belly-laugh comedy,” but it does more than entertain. The play premieres in Calgary this month and Meisner hopes it sparks conversations surrounding gay parenting and fertility issues, and removes the shame around using a donor.
“A lot of space can be created if people can get together and laugh about an issue,” says Meisner. “Shame shouldn’t be there. That’s your family and that’s who you care for.”
Speed Dating for Sperm Donors runs Feb. 2 to Feb. 21 at Lunchbox Theatre, lunchboxtheatre.com.